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10 Aug, 2021 17:20

US ‘frustrated’ it has no evidence Russia is behind ‘Havana syndrome’ - but don’t expect the blame game to be over anytime soon

US ‘frustrated’ it has no evidence Russia is behind ‘Havana syndrome’ - but don’t expect the blame game to be over anytime soon

The New York Times has published an article based on briefings from nameless government sources, outlining the relentless, desperate and ultimately fruitless quest by US spies to determine the cause of ‘Havana syndrome’.

First identified in Cuba late 2016, the “syndrome” is a set of inexplicable medical symptoms allegedly afflicting American diplomats and spooks, and sometimes their families, including vertigo, hearing and memory loss, headaches, nausea and mental fogginess. In response, half the embassy’s staff were withdrawn, and Cuban diplomats were expelled from the US in retaliation. Since its first diagnosis, cases have been claimed as far afield as Vienna, and Washington itself.

Along the way, anonymous intelligence sources and even prominent politicians have regularly charged that “sophisticated” Russian microwave and/or sonic weapons are responsible, a baseless and scientifically improbable allegation that has nonetheless been invariably and recklessly repeated verbatim by the mainstream media.

In a hilarious twist, a January 2019 study conducted by two biologists at the University of California concluded that a recording of the purported noise provided by a US diplomat in fact featured the mating song of the Indies short-tailed cricket, which is native of the Caribbean.

Also on rt.com Cue the crickets: Berkeley researcher finds Cuba ‘sonic attack’ sound is actually insects chirping

The Times, in its article published on August 8, makes clear though that the academics’ findings haven’t deterred US intelligence operatives from dedicating countless hours, and investing untold sums, into trying to root out a more sinister explanation, befitting Washington’s national security interests and objectives.

In fact, the National Security Council has apparently begun an “urgent effort to address the issue,” and there are now two separate “task forces” working on the baffling case – one is led by the CIA, the other “focused on finding commercial technology that could detect or block attacks.” These efforts have ramped up considerably since President Joe Biden announced in July that Havana syndrome “demands that departments and agencies, including the entire intelligence community, work together with urgency.”

Despite Havana syndrome being a “top priority for the intelligence community,” the crack squads are “still struggling to find evidence to back up” the theory that dastardly Russian agents are responsible. This was expressed two days prior to the Times article’s publication at a high-ranking meeting, in which CIA director Willian Burns, FBI director Christopher Wray, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, among others, were present.

Serious stuff indeed, although many aspects of the report have an acutely farcical character, underlining the paranoia and derangement at the heart of the enterprise. For instance, it’s said that earlier this year, US troops in Syria were gripped by a “sudden illness”, and feared it “may have been caused by a Russian aircraft that could have directed microwaves at them.” It was ultimately determined they’d simply suffered food poisoning.

However, other passages starkly underline that this futile alarmism is no laughing matter. For one, a nameless intelligence official is quoted as saying that the lack of a “definitive conclusion” was “frustrating”, as that would “enable the President to call out the Russians, the way he has with cyberattacks.” Furthermore, another “element” of the Havana syndrome probe is to “develop portable sensors that could be widely distributed to detect attacks.” Clearly, Washington wants a way of both identifying and attributing these purported microwave attacks to a particular culprit, or culprits – which can only raise alarm bells, given it’s a matter of public record US intelligence services have ways of falsifying attribution for cyberattacks.

In 2017, classified internal CIA files published by WikiLeaks revealed that Langley can mask its hacking exploits to make it appear another country – such as China, or Russia – was responsible. Dubbed “Marble Framework”, the resource reportedly inserts foreign language text into malware source code to fool security analysts. 

According to the documents, Marble can obfuscate using Arabic, Chinese, English, Farsi, Korean and Russian. What’s more, CIA hackers employ crafty tricks and double bluffs to reinforce bogus attributions, for example by creating the appearance of attempts to conceal these foreign languages, which would prompt forensic investigators to conclude even more strongly the country in question was responsible.

Somewhat amazingly, this exposure prompted no mainstream journalist to reappraise claims that Moscow was indeed responsible for the release of damaging Democratic National Committee emails in 2016. That conclusion, universally reinforced by the Western media, was initially peddled by Matt Tait, a former GCHQ spy.

He avowedly based his analysis on “basic operational security failures” by the individual(s) who released the communications, including their computer username referencing the founder of the Soviet Union’s secret police, and allegedly “ham-fisted” attempts to pose as Romanian. Precisely the kind of thing the CIA would deliberately engage in to cover its own tracks.

Given this precedent, it can’t be ruled out that somehow, some way, these detectors if ever successfully created would be similarly capable of falsely attributing microwave or sonic weapon attacks, even if no such attack has occurred and there are far more mundane, logical explanations, a la the troops in Syria. 

Don’t bank on detectors being available anytime soon though, as in a rather comic turn, one official quoted by the New York Times conceded that it would be “hard to ensure that the sensors will work,” given there is no certainty microwaves are the actual cause of the unexplained and seemingly inexplicable illnesses – and even if they are the cause, “the sensors would have to be able to pick up signals across a large part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Still, that this information has been provided to the Times at all could possibly mean that someone or something powerful wants it in the public domain. A potential explanation for this disclosure is that one day soon, technology of dubious CIA origin may be attributing blame for Havana syndrome to Moscow, and/or other mandated enemy countries.

Such a development could have serious real-world consequences. Questionable accusations of responsibility for the DNC email release led in 2018 to the indictment of 12 Russian citizens by the US Justice Department, while in April Washington announced sanctions targeting dozens of Russian entities and officials in response to the 2020 SolarWinds hack that Moscow denied being responsible for and called US allegations unsubstantiated.

Also on rt.com Not even a ‘highly likely’? Cybersecurity group admits SolarWinds hack came FROM WITHIN THE US, but doubles down on blaming Russia

America’s actions no doubt further demonized Russia not only in the US, but across the Western world – and they could well have been motivated by intelligence services bearing false witness on a grand, dystopian scale. Even more sinisterly, fear-mongering over Havana syndrome could hypothetically provide cover for the development of US-made sonic and/or microwave weapons, in retaliation to attacks that haven’t actually happened. After all, it was false claims of mind control experimentation by the Soviet Union that served as justification for the CIA’s horrific MKULTRA program.

If nothing else, the New York Times article shows that one of the mainstream media’s greatest, most effective tricks very much remains not necessarily telling readers what to think, but what to think about, and how they and their government must respond. Some such response or other is impending, and may have long been ready, awaiting deployment once the public has been properly prepared and whipped up into a sufficiently hostile hysteria.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.